Rainforest Solutions Project

Promoting conservation and economic alternatives in British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest


Plan aims to protect Canadian coastal rainforest

March 31, 2009

(Vancouver, BC) – A newly minted management plan for the Great Bear Rainforest on Canada’s Pacific Coast is an international example of how to balance ecological and economic needs, environmentalists and timber industry officials said on Tuesday.

The plan comes nearly three years after the groups and aboriginal leaders called a truce in their long-running battle over protecting the 64,000 sq. km (24,710 sq. mile) wilderness area, which is more than twice the size of Belgium.

“It’s a conservation model that other parts of the world can look to. A model that shows how protection of ecological values and human wellbeing can be advanced without undermining each other,” Stephanie Goodwin of Greenpeace said in written statement.

The sides had faced a deadline to complete the land use plan by March 31, or risk losing C$120 million ($95 million) from government and international donors that was set aside in 2006 to help native Indian communities in the area find economic alternatives to logging.

The Great Bear Rainforest region, which extends along the coast from northern Vancouver Island to the southern end of the Alaska panhandle, contains some of the most dramatic scenery in North America with rugged mountains, coastal islands and few people.

Environmentalists coined the name Great Bear Rainforest in the 1990s as part of an international campaign that at one time included an international boycott of lumber products from British Columbia.

The area is home to a white-furred subspecies of the normally dark Kermode bear, which environmentalists also began calling “spirit bears”, making them the poster bruins in the battle to protect the region.

Catalyst Paper Corp (CTL.TO) Chief Executive Richard Garneau said that while the plan sets aside an extensive area for protection from logging it was also a good for the industry because it can now market the environmental quality of the forest products still produced in the area.

The management plan sets aside 21 areas in which all commercial forestry and hydro-electric generation would be prohibited. It also establishes logging regulations designed to conserve about half the area’s old-growth forest. (Reporting Allan Dowd, editing by Rob Wilson)